Humboldt Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance Update

Significant developments have occurred in the past few weeks and days regarding the County’s Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance.
Last Friday, the Humboldt County Superior Court denied a petition by local group HUMMAP filed in its case against the County of Humboldt. The petition sought to enforce a settlement the group reached last July which required the County to conduct an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prior to substantively amending its marijuana permit ordinance. The issue was whether the County violated that settlement when it allowed existing cultivators to register and apply for a permit without submitting a registration form prior to August 23rd of last year. The County’s ordinance required existing cultivators to register with the County prior to August 23rd to receive “good standing” and receive priority in the coming California state permitting program. HUMMAP argued that the County’s interpretation allowing cultivators to apply if they hadn’t registered by August 23rd constituted a substantive change to the ordinance and therefore violated the settlement. The County argued that it had the ability to interpret the ordinance and that failing to register by the August 23rd deadline did not affect existing cultivators ability to apply for a permit, but rather to receive priority when applying for a permit with the State.
In ruling against HUMMAP, Superior Court Judge Christopher Wilson found that the County was interpreting its own ordinance, which it could do under the settlement. Judge Wilson stated that the County had “the ability to clarify that ambiguity.” The court went on to state that the ordinance was to be interpreted as intending to bring in as many unlawful marijuana cultivation operations “out of the cold” to mitigate the environmental damage alleged to have resulted from the grows. The practical effect of the ruling allows all of the existing cultivators that applied without submitting a registration by the August 23 deadline to proceed with their applications.
In other news, recent legal challenges involving the State Water Board and other Regional Water Boards has resulted in the need to require public disclosure of third party program documents related to the North Coast Water Board’s Order R1-2015-0023. Examples of the third party program documents being made public include: the Notice of Intent, the Water Resources Protection Plan (WRPP), the Monitoring and Reporting Plans, and annual inspection reports. Prior to this clarification, those documents could be held as private documents and were not subject to public disclosure. While the effect of this development is unclear at this time, it could prompt local permitting agencies such as the Humboldt County Planning Commission to require disclosure of WRPP’s as part of the permitting process. It could also result in requiring that the recommendations in the WRPP be implemented prior to receiving a permit.
The County has come out with a Cannabis Business License Application to register your cannabis business with the County. The form can be found on the Humboldt County website at this location(link is external). Look for the Cannabis License Tab at the site. The fee for the Application is $375.45.